Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Jdg 17-21
"The story of Samson is the proper end of the Book of Judges.
With that the reader is brought almost, if not quite, to the time of Samuel.
There are, actually, three appendices to the book: (a) the story of Micah and
the Danite apostasy (Jdg 17; 18); (b) the frank account of the great crime of
the Gibeathites and its consequences (Jdg 19-21); and (c) in sharp contrast with
these, the charming idyll of Ruth the Moabitess.
"The indications are that all these three appendices belong to
the early days of the judges, but in none is there any mention of a 'judge'.
From that point of view they are not part of the original purpose and plan of
the book at all.
" 'In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did
that which was right in his own eyes.' This expression, which comes four times
altogether (Jdg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25), implies that the Judges narrative was
compiled during the reign of one of the kings. It might be read, also, as
indicating a state of anarchy in Israel, when the national organization had gone
to pieces. But this was far from being the case, for there are various allusions
to a system of ordered government (eg Jdg 18:2,8; 20:1,2,12,13,18; 21:10,16).
"It is often overlooked that identical words are applied to
Israel in the wilderness: '(When ye are come into the Land) ye shall not do
after all the things that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in
his own eyes' (Deu 12:8). When those words were spoken Israel did not lack
cohesion or orderly government, but there are indications enough that at that
time men served God or disregarded His law as they chose. It is in this sense
that the words must be read concerning the period of the judges" (Harry
Whittaker, "Judges and Ruth").
Reading 2 - Isa 40:3,4
"A voice of one calling: 'In the desert prepare the way for
the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God' " (Isa
The voice crying in the wilderness demanded a way for the
Lord, a road prepared in the wilderness. We should be attentive to the Master's
proclamation, and give him a highway into our hearts, built up by gracious
operations, through the "desert" of our nature.
"We have an interesting word picture of a highway being built
through a wilderness. John the Baptist is the 'heavy equipment' used to level
uneven ground. He will raise the depressions and lower the hills. He will
prepare the ground for the road to be laid down... The importance of John's
'bulldozing' message is not lost through the passage of time as we are in need
of this truth as much today as the men of Israel in yesteryear. Man is mortal
and sinful. We are in need of a redeemer. Humility is not an option. There is no
such thing as a proud believer. Anyone who truly understands the Gospel message
must realize who they are and what their place is in the universe. It is
humbling and uplifting all at once. Humbling in that we know how insignificant
we are; uplifting in knowing what we can become in Christ. Let us pray that
there is a path cleared through our 'deceitful' and 'desperately wicked' hearts
for Christ to build his road" (Kyle Tucker).
EVERY VALLEY SHALL BE RAISED UP (v 4): Low and groveling
thoughts of God must be given up; doubting and despairing must be removed; and
self-seeking and carnal delights must be forsaken. Across these deep valleys a
glorious causeway of grace must be raised.
EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL MADE LOW: Proud creature-sufficiency,
and boastful self-righteousness, must be leveled, to make a highway for the King
of kings. Divine fellowship is never offered to haughty, high-minded sinners.
The Lord has respect to the lowly, and visits the contrite in heart, but the
lofty are an abomination unto Him.
THE ROUGH GROUND SHALL BECOME LEVEL: The crooked shall be made
straight. The wavering heart must have a straight path of decision for God and
holiness marked out for it. Double-minded men are strangers to the God of truth.
Take care that you be in all things honest and true, as in the sight of the
THE RUGGED PLACES A PLAIN: Stumbling-blocks of sin must be
removed, and thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. So great a visitor
must not find miry ways and stony places when He comes to honor His favored ones
with His company.
Reading 3 - 1Jo 1:7
"But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have
fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from
all [or every] sin" (1Jo 1:7).
"The blood of Christ never cleansed an excuse."
A woman said to her brother, "I'm deeply troubled about a
problem I have: I exaggerate. I always seem to enlarge a story until it's all
distorted. People know they can't trust me. Can you help me?"
The brother said, "Let's pray about it." So she began to pray,
"Dear Heavenly Father, Thou knowest I have a tendency to exaggerate." At this
point the brother interrupted, "Call it lying, sister, and you may get over it!"
The woman began to weep, because she knew he was right. She had been trying to
make "lying" acceptable, and her excuse-making had made praying about it nearly
All of us are prone to cover up our sins by giving them polite
names. Bad temper is said to be "nerves" or "righteous indignation", meanness to
be "zeal for the Truth", lying is labeled "harmless exaggeration", and
dishonesty is dignified by calling it "good business practice". To grow in
grace, we must put aside all rationalizing and get to the heart of the problem.
The blood of Christ does not apply to excuses, but it has the power to cleanse